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Companies should create shared value. So what?

The idea that companies should create shared value has been building a lot of momentum recently, which is very exciting. However, as anyone in business will tell you, there’s a big difference between having a great idea and implementing it successfully. At FSG, we’re doing a lot of thinking about what the concept actually means in practice, both with individual corporate clients, and in a recent report and upcoming webinar.

When I joined FSG as fresh new hire (coming up for five years ago now), something that was drummed into me from the very beginning was the importance of generating what we consultant types have been known to call “actionable insights.” To save those of you allergic to jargon from translating that into plain English, the basic message was that it’s not good enough simply to provide information or develop a framework. Rather, the real value a consultant can bring is to translate observations, conclusions and theories into a set of concrete recommendations that the client can actually do something with. It’s essential, I was told, not only to answer the question, “what?” but also, “so what?”

So it’s perhaps not surprising that we’ve been thinking about this “so what?” question in relation to creating shared value quite a lot recently. A couple of weeks ago, we released a report that we put together with the support of HP, Creating Shared Value: A How-To Guide to the New Corporate (R)evolution, that seeks to distil the key building blocks of creating shared value, and what it takes for a company to get started on implementing them. Of course, there’s a limit to how useful this kind of report can be; shared value opportunities are unique to each company, and so the process of developing and implementing a CSV strategy is likely to be pretty unique, too. Still, we hope that some of the lessons the report documents will prove helpful as firms think through how to be more intentional about creating shared value.

We’ll also be exploring the question further in a webinar, this coming Thursday (5th May). Tony Kingsbury, Associate Director of Sustainability at Dow Chemical, Dorje Mundle, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship with Novartis, and Janet Voûte, Nestlé’s Global Head of Public Affairs will be joining my colleague Mark Kramer (who co-wrote the article on CSV in January’s Harvard Business Review) to talk about what shared value means to their company and how they’re putting it into practice.

These are a good start, but there’s undoubtedly more to learn. What questions are on your mind as you think about how to implement shared value creation at your company? What would you want to see discussed on Thursday?